Parents of Nigerians studying in Ukraine yesterday, protested at the Russian Embassy in Abuja. The parents, who bore placards with various inscriptions were basically calling for lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine.
Aside from the safety of lives and property, some of the parents recalled huge investment made towards the education of their wards, and urged the warring nations to end the hostility for the sake of humanity.
They echoed: “We want peace in Ukraine. We want our children to study and return alive.“But barring unforeseen circumstances, the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in war torn Ukraine will happen on Wednesday (tomorrow).
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama made this known when he met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila at the National Assembly complex, Abuja.
The minister assured the speaker that things were under control in Ukraine, as the Federal Government had put necessary arrangements in place to ensure the safe return of Nigerians. He disclosed that in the last few days, the ministry, in conjunction with the missions, had completed formalities for Nigerians to move to safe border points from where they would be transported in buses to the airports in neighbouring countries.
The Minister listed Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and even Russia, among the countries to be used as exit points. The minister, who disclosed that there were about 5,600 Nigerian students in Ukraine, added that there were also non-students, some of whom might not have been legally documented.
He informed Gbajabiamila that working closely with the governments of those countries, the ministry had secured their cooperation to grant access to Nigerians into their territories, preparatory for the evaluation.
Onyeama dismissed reports that Africans, particularly Nigerians, were not allowed to leave Ukraine or granted access into the neighbouring countries, blaming the chaos at some of the borders on “panic” and the fact that so many people were rushing at the time on hearing the sound of bombs and artillery fire.
“Where we are now is the point of ascertaining the exact number we are dealing with and to agree on the location for the evaluation.
“We are thinking Bucharest; but all of this is being sorted out and we are constantly working to ensure that everything goes on very smoothly,” the minister said. Onyeama also explained that the delay in evacuating Nigerians wasn’t because the government wasn’t ready or didn’t know what to do.
According to him, “80 per cent to 90 per cent” of countries and people did not believe that Russia would indeed invade Ukraine.
“I was in touch with our ambassador early enough and he assured us that there was no need for evacuation. The students even said there was no problem at all.
“Also, the Ukrainian government did not want people to leave, and especially because most of our people are students, who will not be able to go back to Ukraine again, should they leave,” Onyeama further stated. Gbajabiamila expressed satisfaction over the measure put in place, stressing the need for the country to find ways to quicken its response time to emergencies.
He noted that response mechanisms, including funds, aeroplanes and other equipment, must readily be on standby to respond to life-threatening situations such as the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and how they affected Nigerians.
“We must be in a state of readiness at all times. We should have our own planes and necessary funding to respond quickly to such emergencies,” the speaker said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has sued for peace as delegations from Kyiv arrived venue for negotiations with Russia, five days after the invasion. Among their demand was immediate ceasefire by Russia and withdrawal of its troop from Ukraine.
The embattled Ukraine has also called for recognition as a member of European Union (EU). Ukrainian statesman Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky, urged the EU to grant his country immediate membership as Russia’s assault against the pro-western country went into its fifth day.
“We appeal to the EU for the immediate accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure”, the 44-year-old leader said in a new video address.
Adding: “Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I am sure it is fair. I am sure it is possible.”
Also, Nigerian government condemned reports of racial discrimination against Africans fleeing Ukraine, urging border officials in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to treat Nigerians equally.
Reports of Polish officials refusing Nigerian citizens entry into Poland from Ukraine was also noted in a statement by Presidential advisor, Garba Shehu. He described as unfortunate, reports of Ukrainian police and security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards the Ukraine-Poland border.
“In a widely circulated video on the social media, a Nigerian mother with her young baby were captured being physically forced to give up her seat to another person.